Sicily – the Godfather of October Get-Aways

Italy… we love it. The service is almost always crap, the streets have numbers instead of names, no one can speak English even though millions of tourists visit every year… and yet, we love the place and visit the land of mozzarella, pizza, good wine and great food more than any other European country.

the old and new FIAT 500

We landed quite late in the evening, but to a temperature of 25 degrees which is amazingly, normal for October. We found a cozy little hotel in the old city and spent the evening at a bar drinking limoncello and Italian beer.

Vaivara enjoying limoncello

The next day it was even warmer and after a morning of sight-seeing (thank God for GPS) and shopping for fresh and tasty food at the local markets, we hit the beach and spent a lovely afternoon doing what Italians love best – eating and relaxing.

food on the beach (when its this good) is preferable even to sex on the beach

In the afternoon we took the lift up to Erice where we met our couch-surfing hosts, Guido and Sandra who were the most lovely people. They prepared a truly wonderful dinner of risotto, cheeses, wine and grilled Sicilian sausages. We hit it off immediately and spent hours talking about the mafia, Sicily, culture, couch-surfing and of course, food. It turns out, the word “mafia” does not mean organised crime, but refers specifically to Sicilian organised crime, which dates back several centuries.

the Mafia museum

They left us alone at their holiday home, promising to pick us up the next day for a tour through the countryside. Amazing hosts… but for my mafia nightmare which woke me up in the middle of the night, I would definitely recommend couch-surfing to anyone who wants to truly experience the culture of the city they are visiting.

on the roof of our hosts’ holiday home

The next day we visited the castle in Erice; Segesta, an old Greek ruin; and a little town called Salemi, places in the very heart of the island. Salemi, it turns out, is quite famous for things like the Coppole hat, strong Mafia ties and it was also the capital of Italy for one day when Garibaldi declared it so while on his quest northwards to unify Italy.

the medievil castle of Erice 
the Coppole hat

We took the last bus to Palermo, the largest city in Sicily which was nothing short of a museum under the sky. It is also a city of so many cultures mixing together, with an abundance of African, Arab, Greek and Spanish influences shaping the island.

the view of the market from our hotel balcony
Palermo theatre

We spent the day exploring, shopping, drinking the loveliest Italian espresso and living the good life. No wonder these people live so long:

Sandra’s grandfather at 96 years. Incredible!

Cannoli and espresso… yummy

Without a doubt we plan to come back, possibly to visit more of the eastern part of the island and Corleone, the village made famous by the Godfather.

Nokia Campaign – Short Blog Title, A Rather Long Post

I always try to keep posts short and simple. I’m afraid however that this one is going to be long, but if you get through it, hopefully really interesting.

Tomorrow is the first ever LOVE ideas breakfast. Ed and I are not exactly hosting it, but we want to come prepared with some material, to make sure everyone finds it interesting and well worth repeating this get together in the months to come. I’ve had a look at some new viral material doing the rounds in social media – its just got to be as current as possible because being in an agency, you’re always at risk of thinking you’ve discovered something new when actually it has already been around the office, discussed in the kitchen and someone’s already blogged about it last week.

Also, the speed with which great advertising campaigns become old advertising campaigns has never been as fast as it is now: Old Spice is old advice. Since then we’ve had some great stuff done by Tipex, Diesel and now Nokia, to mention a few.

What are they doing well, how are they doing it and what insights can we draw from their success? Lets take Nokia as an example:

Wieden + Kennedy London (for those not in the industry they are also the creators of the Old Spice campaign) once again show us why they are so highly regarded. The campaign follows a consistent theme throughout: “It’s Not Technology, It’s What You Do With It” and promotes the new Nokia N8 using various entertaining videos which test that very hypothesis. Its nerdy but cool, or perhaps its time we realise, nerdy is the new cool.

This video has over 2 million views with a follow up on the kid who came up with hamster-powered charger getting over 70,000 views. Its seems the Old Spice example of creating sub-plots, responses, alternative endings and sequels is now being widely used to increase the brand’s engagement with users. What’s more, a Rubber Republic research report into viral campaigns suggests that the odds of a video remaining in the top 10 chart for more than a week are approximately only 8.5%. These secondary and tertiary videos prolong the longevity of the primary campaign video, racking up views but also, as was the case with Old Spice, they may even be the reason for explosive viral growth in the first place.

Remember those three seconds in which you saw the dancing robot in the video above, or the kickflip on the skateboard… of course not, but its still an opportunity to expand on the campaign’s core message and make further interesting videos, each getting thousands of views.

15,000+ views
Further evidence that nerdy, or should I say technology, is the new cool: Nokia devices as used by skateboarders and graffiti artists:

6,000+ views

6,000+ views
So we now have a taste for how Nokia’s mobile devices are changing the way we do things in a very creative way. A couple of thousand views here, a couple thousand there. Suddenly we have another video that enters the campaign and it gets over a million views in less than a month. It comes with its own “making of” support video, copy-cat imitations and has been shared extensively on Twitter and Facebook. This video is shot entirely on the new N8:

Some DOT. support videos included: “CellScope. Diagnosing malaria with a Nokia.” & “Dot. The making of.” It even reached the press as Metro and Campaign ran stories on the DOT video.
Then, just as I was thinking, this is all pretty darn good and “one day, when I grow up, I would like to create such great work”, Nokia or W+K decided to send some influential bloggers a new N900 phone to test out. But these guys get loads of phones, all the time, so to make them sit up and take notice:

“Our ‘hackerbox’ initiative for the launch of the Nokia N900 used traditional direct marketing techniques. But it combined these with an awareness of the new trend for the posting of ‘unboxing’ videos for new gadgets and an understanding of the influencers amongst online tech communities. We identified a dozen or so of the most infuential tech bloggers and sent them an awesomely mysterious black cube containing geeky goodies and the new N900. The box could only be opened by hacking its secret access code. The recipients made and posted their own unboxing videos and the tech community went wild for hackerbox,. Huge online buzz was generated. Engadget described it as ‘the best unboxing ever’”

Half a million views, for the price of one phone.
So, draw what conclusions you like from this case study, as a newbie to the industry I have certainly drawn more than a fair few.
I realise now that what works best is still simply, a great idea. The only difference between great ideas of the past and those now is that with a little bit of tech know-how and insights into who the influencers of your industry are, today you can get that idea to a lot of people, really quickly and keep them talking about it for a while. The simplicity, and even beauty of advertising mobile technology that is so complex, is in this case, the great idea. 

Carrot Cake

I made a carrot cake for our work trip to the Lake District as everyone was asked to bring in a dessert. I don’t usually bake, and when it comes to pastries, I really only know how to make a good cheesecake and pancakes (if they even count).

Luckily my first attempt worked out quite well, so I’m including the recipe and some photos for those of you who asked, and for those of you who like nothing better than a spongy carrot cake with cream cheese icing.



  1. 6 or 7 large carrots – peeled and grated
  2. 2 tea cups flower
  3. 2 tea cups sugar
  4. 1 & 1/2 tea cups oil
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 1 cup pecan nuts crushed
  7. 1 tea spoon baking powder
  8. 1/2 tea spoon salt
  9. 2 tea spoons cinnamon


  1. 400g icing sugar
  2. 150g unsalted butter
  3. 200g cream cheese


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180/200
  2. Mix dry ingredients
  3. Add eggs, mix with spoon
  4. Add carrots and oil, mix
  5. Oil the tray a little (better if you use that non-stick baking paper instead of oil if you can)
  6. Bake for roughly 30 minutes

for icing (use mixer)

  1. beat/mix butter until white
  2. add cream cheese and icing sugar, mix until smooth
  3. put icing when cake is cold
  4. refrigerate
  5. ENJOY!